PIRACY AS A THREAT TO MARITIME SECURITY
By Caleb Danladi Bako PhD Researcher
Maritime Piracy has been a growing security concern in Global Maritime Economy; it is an increasing serious threat to life and commercial shipping. United Nations Convention on the laws of the sea (UNCLOS) Article 101 of 1982 define piracy as any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with the facts of making it a pirate ship or aircraft. For a long period, piracy has been serious challenges that threaten the maritime security system. The major affected region is the horn of Africa, where the illegal activity has been threatening merchant vessels that traverse the Gulf of Aden, Somalia and Western Waters. The current research has realised that the pirates have adopted the use of sophisticated equipments, financially stable and are well organised. The issue of piracy has affected the shipping of the international cargo and international maritime security, and it has been the issue of discussion in political agendas for most Western States Following global security concern, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) introduces a comprehensive mandatory security regime for international shipping which entered into force on 1st July 2004. This security regime is known as international ship and port facility security code (ISPS). ISPS code was developed to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States. The purpose of the code is to provide a standardised, consistent framework for evaluating risk, enabling government to offset changes in threat with changes in vulnerability for ships and port facilities through determination of appropriate security levels and corresponding security measures. Piracy and terrorism are considered the most challenging criminal act that intimidates the maritime security system. The act of piracy involves armed robbery and shipping of illegal substances such as narcotic drugs, which cause insecurity issues to the navigators, crew members and maritime trade. The main issue in the marine safety system is the limitation of the zones where various states bordering the sea can operate. The zonation of maritime waters affects the application of maritime laws such as prosecution of the perpetrators (Ibid).
Due to the different trans-boundary and the mobility of the maritime security system, the pirate perpetrators can cross to other boundaries after committing an offence hence making their punishment difficult.
Political Piracy and Maritime Terrorism state that the difference in laws and the issue of transboundary can be considered as a major loophole in the maritime security system that make the maritime security operations difficult to effectively deal with the piracy issues. Looking at the nature of piracy threats to the maritime security, some of the threats directly affect the maritime security. The first direct threat is that piracy is a transnational organised crime that includes trafficking of weapons and narcotic drugs. The threat has been in existence for ages and the insecurity issue, promoted by regional politics and corruptions that influence the maritime security. Some of the pirates operations are carried out in waters bordering countries where there are political instability, high poverty level and social instability. Some of the most affected areas are where the borders are long and have few security patrols and controls. These border weaknesses provide favourable conditions for corrupt politicians and thieves who wish to get financial gains through engaging in organised crimes. Another challenge direct threat is that pirates are armed robbers at the seas and have a full knowledge of sea navigation.
The pirates always launch attack to maritime security ships that tries to confront them.
Since some of the maritime security operations require commands, launching an attack sometimes is difficult due to lack of proper communication channels in the maritime security system. The most affected areas with direct attacks in Somalia waters and West Africa due to the political unrest in Somalia and Nigeria that are affected by terrorism. Indirect piracy activities that threaten the maritime security can essentially be dangerous and may lead to direct terrorizations. Some of the indirect threats are the availability of sophisticated weapons such as chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, including some of the commercial dealings that engage in illegal activities and go without detection. The main problem related to the indirect threats is the extent of damage that will be realised in case of terrorist attacks. Some of the indirect threats are politically instigated, and the perpetrator’s identity is always shielded to protect their identity by corrupt practices. In the case of detection, the shielding of the prime suspects and perpetrators make it impossible for the maritime security to proceed and prosecute the crime. The main danger that maritime security is exposed to as result of piracy is commercial insecurity and navigation insecurity. The effect of piracy may result in financial loss, high cost of security, increase the cost of consumer products and increased damage to the marine environment. The danger of current piracy is complex and does have not only direct implication for the maritime security, but also direct political, human, economic, and environmental implication. Direct attack on maritime security forces affect the lives and put citizens at high risk of losing life. Apart from deaths, direct attacks on security forces may inflict injuries, accidents and loss of property such as merchant ships. Provision of a long- term solution to the piracy and maritime insecurity may be challenging due to existing trans-border laws and political differences. In order to combat piracy-related issues, the maritime security system should adopt new technologies with improved intelligence detection capabilities that can track and verify vessels. The marine security can install safe havens that will assist in physical protection in case of direct attacks. Achieving the security measures against piracy call for international relations and universal jurisdiction that is manifested through customary laws for international crimes such as piracy. Through these management strategies, the maritime security can be in a better position of suppressing piracy against merchant ships in the most affected high waters.
Caleb Danladi is a maritime expert